“Civilisation”, or what passes for it in the Medway Valley, was winding down for the night, as we abandoned the car in a lane chosen for its proximity to our target, whilst still being, sort of, a built-up area. We headed up the lane, a party clearly on the go in someone’s garage and garden. Jeers directed at our rucksack-laden backs from locals swigging tasteless lager.
We climbed up onto the North Downs escarpment, threading our way along a path through the woods that are such a feature of this part of Kent. We ducked under low-hanging branches and wriggled our way around fallen trunks.
At the top we emerged into a field, and it looked a likely candidate for spending the night. We explored the far corner away from the paths, wading our way through overgrown grasses and dandelions, stepping carefully over the old ruts beneath. It would do, and would give us some daylight compared with pushing onto the uncertainty of the original intended spot.
We selected a pitch, and up went the shelters – for me, Matilda, my Hexpeak, and for the Boy, Mabel, the HiGear Soloista. We camped among the grasses, long stems and dandelion stalks obscuring the view of the tents.
On went dinner, the traditional Official Annual Birthday Camp meal of sausages in rolls, washed down with bottles of cider. The Boy retired to his tent, and I recoiled from the slugs invading Matilda. One on my mug, on the groundsheet, making a beeline for the food.
On a sunless evening, gradually the greyish-white sky turned dark and it was time for bed.
Daylight crept into the tent, and I discovered a slug right above my face on the other side of the inner. That must be what the wet patch I felt was, then. The daddy of all slugs at the foot end of the inner. A slug wallowing in the congealed fat of the Trangia frying pan (I didn’t tell the Boy about that until after…), I helped it out and got breakfast on – remarkably similar to dinner, except it was bacon instead of sausages. Oh and tea instead of cider.
The early morning mist that lay low over the field enhanced the sense of being undiscovered and made it feel like a wilder place than it really was.
We packed up and headed deeper into the forest, a leg stretch before the short drive home. We followed rutted forest tracks used by the loggers and came to the corner of the field I’d originally been aiming for. It looked ok, but we’d taken the better field as it turned out.
We cut through the trees to join The Road to Nowhere, as I call it – a byway that I never intentionally walk, merely visiting it as a result of a wrong turning. We came to a junction at the corner of a larger field sliced up by pylons. Unobtrusively on a tree, lay the path marker. We’d arrived at the Junction of Doom, where it usually goes wrong.
Not today though: we headed back carwards along the byway and stayed on it until we hit the road proper, scouting out possible future camp spots as we walked. Soon we were back at the car and on our way home. June’s sleep out duly completed.